January 29, 2008

Grilled Asparagus Pizza

I love grilled asparagus. They are really simple to make and they taste delicious, and by grilling them you are able to get their full flavor without losing any crispiness, and you can't get that by simply boiling them. And prosciutto wrapped asparagus is definitely one of the best ways to taste both prosciutto and asparagus, because of the buttery prosciutto heavenly melting in your mouth just in every bite of each asparagus. And that's exactly what we will use to top my grilled asparagus pizza.

Pizza dough (for one 15" pizza use half of one of these recipes)
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
8 asparagus stalks
8 slices of prosciutto
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Olive oil
Salt, pepper

As always, once you're done with the pizza dough, stretch it on the pizza pan. Cut the tomatoes into about 1/4-inch-thick slices and toss them on top of your dough. Add the parmesan cheese, some olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until the crust turns golden brown (about 25 minutes in a 450°F preheated oven). While you're cooking the pizza, clean the asparagus, chopping off their ends. Marinate with olive oil, salt and pepper for a couple of minutes. Set your grill at medium heat and grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes. I used my panini grill, so it wasn't necessary to grill each side. And, if you don't have a grill, just put the asparagus on a baking dish in the oven for 15 minutes. When the asparagus are ready, let them cool for a couple of minutes and then wrap them using one slice of prosciutto for each asparagus stalk, taking care to not cover the tips. When your pizza is golden brown, take it out of the oven, put the asparagus on top and add just a touch of olive oil before serving.

Tip: Prosciutto wrapped asparagus are not only a wonderful pizza topping but a great starter and a great side dish too!
Posted by Daziano at 8:58 PM | 0 comments  
January 28, 2008

Elbows Pasta with Saffron

If you like Mac&Cheese you'll love this recipe, even if there's no cheese here! In fact, you'll be surprised with the cheesy texture that this saffron sauce has.

1 pound Elbows pasta
2 tsp Saffron threads
2 tsp peperoncino
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup white wine
1 garlic clove
1/2 stick of butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper

Melt the butter using a large saucepan over medium heat. When it is melted, add the peperoncino and the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Boil the pasta following the label instructions. While you're boiling the pasta, add the heavy cream, the olive oil, the garlic and the saffron threads. Let it reduce and when the pasta is ready just toss the drained pasta over the saucepan, stir and serve! If you want to add a bit more flavor, replace 1/2 cup of the heavy cream with 1/2 cup of chicken broth.

Posted by Daziano at 5:49 PM | 0 comments  
January 24, 2008

Italian Salsa

This is a great way to serve your grilled beef, pork or any meat. It's easy to make, you can prepare it in advance and it has the right balance of tangy and sweet flavors, with a lot of Italian accents because of the sun dried tomatoes, the olives and peppers.


1/4 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup diced peppers
1/4 cup fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper and parsley

Chop and dice all the ingredients and just combine them, adding the wet ingredients at the end and letting the vinegar be absorbed for at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature on top of your meat. You can make a hot version by just adding some chili peppers.
Posted by Daziano at 4:44 PM | 0 comments  
January 5, 2008

Panettone in zuppa inglese

In central Italy it's la Befana who gives gifts to kids for the holidays. According to legend the three wise men while traveling to Bethlehem asked a very very old woman which was the right way to get there. The poor lady was too busy taking care of her monotonous household chores so she didn't care about a newborn King. The wise men wisely tried to explain the importance of Its birth, but she didn't pay attention, because her floor wasn't clean enough yet. However, that evening she realized what was happening and she regretted her actions. So she took some cookies and pastries she had baked earlier, and left her house looking for the wise men in order to accompany them to visit baby Jesus. She tried very hard, but she couldn't reach them. In fact, she got lost. The poor lady began to visit each house seeking baby Jesus. If she found a home with good kids, she left cookies and some gifts. If the children were spoiled, she left coal. And she has been doing so ever since, every January 5th eve. So, you better watch out because la Befana is coming to town!

A good way to celebrate the Epiphany (January 6th) and another good way to use your panettone leftovers, is with my Panettone in zuppa inglese, which is the Italian version of the English trifle.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

12 oz Panettone leftover (about half a medium size one)
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp corn starch
6 egg yolks
1 package frozen berries

Dice the panettone, defrost the berries and reserve. Mix the sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolks and corn starch until you get a homogeneus texture. Warm the milk until it begins to bubble slightly on the extremes of the pan. Take about 1/2 cup of the warm milk and slowly pour it in over the egg yolk mix. Then pour the custard in your pan, mixing it with the milk over medium low heat. Stir constantly until the corn starch cooks and you get a very thick texture. If it's not thick enough, you can add 1 additional Tbsp of corn starch. If it's too thick you can add a bit of heavy cream. When it has reached a creamy thick texture, turn the heat off and let it cool. If you have a trifle bowl, use it to assemble this luscious dessert. If you don't, just use 6 nice cups as I did. This zuppa inglese has the same idea of layering as the beloved tiramisù. Begin with the custard, some diced pieces of panettone, the berries (you can also use the juice), another layer of the custard and so on. You can give a kick by using a bit of rum to moisten your panettone cubes. Italialicious!
Posted by Daziano at 3:01 PM | 0 comments  
January 4, 2008

Panettone Bread Pudding

So, the holidays are almost over and if you are following the Italian traditions you'll eventually have some panettone leftovers. One amazing dessert you can make is Panettone Bread Pudding, which is surprisingly easy to do. Here is my recipe:


12 oz Panettone leftover (about half a medium size one)
4 cups milk
3 yolks
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar + 1 cup sugar (caramel)
3/4 cup raisins

Make a custard using the milk, eggs, yolks and 1 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the raisins. Cut the Panettone into not too small cubes, put them into a bowl and pour in the custard. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. While the panettone dissolves into the custard, take a skillet big enough for the custard you made and caramelize one cup of sugar directly into it. Caramelizing sugar is not hard. You should set your pan directly over the stove at medium high temperature. Pour in the sugar evenly and you'll see that after a while it will become brown and some spots where the sugar is melting will appear. At this point you can use a wooden spoon in order to stir and help the process. When it turns into a brown syrup, your caramel is ready. Turn the heat off and let it cool (it will become really hard, but that's ok). When the caramel is cold (it's normal if it makes scratching sounds while it cools), add the custard, and cover with aluminum foil. Put into a larger skillet. Add water into the larger skillet reaching at least 1 inch high (and making sure not to overpass the height of the smaller skillet). Cook in a preheated oven at 350°F for 40 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 40 minutes at the same temperature. Turn the skillet upside down and carefully detach. Serve warm and enjoy!
Posted by Daziano at 9:57 PM | 0 comments  
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